Effective Administration of County Committees
Responsibilities of Committee Members
- Understand and contribute to committee purpose, priorities, and goals.
The committee's mandate is reflected in the establishing legislation and in committee bylaws.
- Review agendas and supporting documents in advance of meetings.
Be prepared to ask questions (as needed) and to discuss the items on the agenda as part of committee deliberations. Your active participation is important.
- Be aware of appropriate meeting behavior.
Members of the County's boards, commissions and committees should strive at all times to work constructively with other committee members, to respect and consider alternative points to view, and to engage actively in committee business. The following specific guidelines should be observed:
- Be attentive and courteous to members of the public.
- Be respectful and courteous to fellow commissioners.
- Avoid cell phones, eating, chatting, reading, wandering.
- Avoid interrupting persons who are speaking;
- Avoid any type of personal remarks; focus on the subject matter.
- Your professionalism will help the committee to gain respect and influence.
- Absence From Meetings.
Regular attendance at advisory body meetings is vital to the overall effectiveness of the committee.
Always notify the staff and Chairperson of any expected absences.
The most important reason that regular attendance is needed is the requirement for every committee to establish a quorum at each meeting, in order to conduct its business. In the absence of a quorum (the minimum number of members), the meeting must be cancelled. If the quorum is not present at the meeting roll call, the meeting must be cancelled. If one or more members leave during the meeting and a quorum (the minimum number) is not present after they leave, the meeting must be adjourned.
Nevertheless, there will be occasions when it is not possible for a member to attend a meeting, or when a member must leave during a meeting. In this situation, the committee member should contact the committee chair or staff support person, as soon as the absence can be anticipated, to advise the committee of the expected absence.
- Change of Address.
Any change of address of a committee member must be sent to the County staff liaison for the committee, to ensure continued effective communication. It is not necessary to notify the Clerk of the Board of changes of address.
The exact role of a committee's County staff liaison should be agreed upon between the staff liaison, any other departmental representatives with authority over the committee, and the committee itself; the staff liaison role may be revised as circumstances require. The County staff liaisons do not usually serve however as "staff to the committee."
One of the most important functions of committee staff liaisons is to manage changes to the committee membership, including obtaining approval from the Board of Supervisors for all appointments and to announce all "unscheduled" vacancies (following resignation). The committee staff should also maintain the mailing list (e-mail and mailing address) of the committee. The committee support staff is also required to arrange for the appropriate retention of the committee's public records, as provided in the Board of Supervisors Resolution 2012/444 (and the California Government Code) and to make public records available, as required, upon request.
It is important for each committee to assign responsibility either to the staff or to a committee Secretary (or other member) to prepare and distribute agendas (with supporting documents) and to create and distribute minutes of meetings in accordance with the provisions of the Brown Act and the County Better Government Ordinance. A committee, board or commission that does not have dedicated County staff support must nonetheless arrange to prepare and distribute its meeting notices, agendas and meetings as required by the Brown Act and the County Better Government Ordinance.
In summary, the role of a committee staff liaison usually will include the following activities, but can be adjusted based on the specific needs of each committee:
- Prepare meeting notices, agendas, and supporting documents for timely distribution;
- Distribute copies of agenda materials to all members of the committee at the same time the materials are published, as required by the County's Better Government Ordinance;
- Prepare minutes that accurately reflect actions and decisions taken at meetings;
- Post all committee agenda packets and minutes at a physical location (usually where the meeting is held) that is accessible to the public for 96 hours continuously prior to the meeting;
- Post all committee agenda packets and minutes on the County's website (in a section called the Meeting Center) as soon as they are published; this must occur in addition to any links to other webpages where committee information appears.
- Manage procedures for appointments, resignations, and vacancies in collaboration with County Administrator and District Office staff;
- Assist the committee to conduct ongoing recruitment and outreach to maximize public opportunities to apply for membership as vacancies occur;
- Revise committee Bylaws as necessary;
- Administer the committee's conflict of interest code (if one exists) and manage Biannual Notices to review conflict of interest code every two years;
- Maintain committee attendance records.
- Coordinate administration of oaths of office, if required.
- Maintain the committee's archive of public records, including permanent copies of agendas and minutes, training certifications, oaths of office, and Forms 700, as required.
- Collaborate with the County Administrator's Office and Office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors to prepare and submit status reports about committee activities to the Board of Supervisors for action or review. (These include Annual Reports, the Triennial Sunset Review, and other reports as needed).
Electronic Agendas and Minutes on County Website:
An electronic copy of every meeting agenda, as well as final minutes of meetings, must be published by committee staff on the County's website. In order to gain access to the Meeting Agenda Center on the County website, committee staff liaisons should contact Office of Media Relations/ CCTV.
The County website includes a section called "Advisory Committee Meeting Agendas" for this purpose. Committees may post agendas and minutes on other web pages if they choose, but the documents must also be posted electronically in the County's official Meeting Agenda Center on the website. Committee support staff may contact Media Relations/CCTV or Clerk of the Board of Supervisors for instructions on how to post agendas and official minutes of meetings, once approved, to the County website.
Records Retention Policies:
- Permanent Records Archive
Every committee is expected to develop a permanent physical archive for its public records (in particular, "hard copies" of agendas, minutes, and any correspondence addressed to the committee) and to make the public records available upon request, as required by the California Government Code and the Contra Costa Better Government Ordinance.
- 30 Day Communications File Under Better Government Ordinance
All advisory committees are required under the County's Better Government Ordinance to maintain a correspondence file of all communications received over the previous 30 days and to make this file easily available for inspection. California law further requires that all communications addressed to the committee must be retained in the committees archive for two years.
The physical location where members of the public may apply to the committee to obtain copies of the committee's public records should be included in the Annual Report to the Board of Supervisors, and also included on the committee's agendas if possible.
"Records Retention Schedule" for Advisory Committees:
Board of Supervisor's Resolution 2012/444 (see Appendix 17) requires advisory boards, commissions, and committees to maintain their official documents and other records for specified periods of time, to comply with legal requirements. The Resolution includes a "schedule" which indicates the period of time that each type of document must be retained by the committee. Once the "retention period" has expired for each document, it may be destroyed. Of course, "permanent" documents (including agendas and minutes) may not be destroyed.
Public Records Requests
Most advisory bodies will have few records other than agendas and minutes, and are unlikely to receive public records requests.
Public records requests should be addressed immediately.
Under the Contra Costa County Better Government Ordinance, the County's advisory committees must respond in writing to any public records request within one business day. This is a much shorter period of time to reply than the 10 day period that is allowed under the California Public Records Act.
Additional Assistance: Public Records Requests:
If an advisory body requires further assistance with a request for information under the Public Records Act, the committee's County staff (or District Office liaison) should contact the County Administrator's Office or County Counsel’s Office immediately for additional information or assistance.
If you have questions about records administration requirements for your committee, please contact your committee's County staff liaison or the Clerk of the Board.
Managing the Board, Committee, or Commission Roster
1. Types of Seats
The Board makes appointments to two types of committee seats: these are "District Seats" (nominated by the District Supervisor on the basis of District residence) and "At-Large Seats" (usually open to all County residents). Some committee seats have more specific technical or educational requirements based on the needs of the committee. Committee seats are listed in the enabling legislation and in the committee's bylaws as approved by the Board of Supervisors. No changes in seat characteristics may be made except by the Board of Supervisors.2. Submitting Applications
A copy of the application form appears in Appendix 19.3. Review of Applications
Applications for all seats should be filed initially with the Office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, which will distribute applications to the appropriate contact person for the committee. Applications may also be made directly to the committee staff if a copy is provided to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors immediately. All applications must specify the committee (and if possible the specific seat) to which application is being made.
Applications for seats are initially reviewed either by a standing committee of the Board of Supervisors, by a Supervisor's District Office (for District seats only), or, in some cases, by a subcommittee of the advisory body itself, followed by a formal recommendation of applicant(s) to a Standing Committee or to the full Board of Supervisors.
Staff to each individual committee, board or commission should be familiar with the specific appointment processing procedure that applies to the seats on that committee, including any requirements for applications to be reviewed by a Standing Committee prior to consideration by the full Board.